Monday, June 04, 2007

Update on Bloggers on Parliament Hill

Way back in March, Stephen Taylor got security clearance to be on Parliament Hill during Budget Day, and proceeded to interview some MP's. He was unceremoniously ejected from Parliament Hill when he was reported to the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I blogged about it here, here and here.

I wrote a letter to Speaker of the House Peter Milliken. Here is what I wrote:

I am writing in regards to the ejection of blogger Stephen Taylor ( from the Rotunda while he was interviewing MP’s about the Federl Budget last month, as per this blogpost:

I understand that Stephen Taylor had an accreditation similar to that of an MP staffer and that he was ejected from the Rotunda— a public area of the Commons building—after his presence was alerted to the Parliamentary Press Gallery

Since it is your office that is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the House of Commons, including security, I would like to know what is the basis for the PPG’s exclusive right to covering political matters in the House? Is there a statute, charter, contract, policy or law that enshrines their monopoly, or is it the product of a traditional “Gentleman’s Agreement” between itself and the Speaker’s office, and has never been questioned? Or is it some other arrangement? And does the PPG have a right to require security to remove rogue journalists? What is the basis for that power?

I would also like to know whether you would be amenable to an arrangement whereby bloggers with the proper clearance could engage in journalistic activities on the Hill without the PPG’s permission? This question is of great importance to the political blogosphere and many politically engaged Canadians. It would be a great contribution to our democratic system if this emerging grassroots media could gain direct access to elected officials on Parliament Hill. I speak only for myself, but I am certain my opinion is shared by a large number of bloggers.

I and many concerned bloggers would appreciate your information, clarification and insight on these matters.

Here is a transcription of the letter that I received this morning:

Thank you for your e-mail of April 3,2007 concerning the Parliamentary Press Gallery and bloggers.

The House of Commons has had a long standing relationship with the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery. The Speaker of the House of Commons enters into an agreement with the Press Gallery on behalf of all Members of Parliament. The Press Gallery is a non profit, self-regulated corporation comprised of journalists assigned by news organizations to cover Parliament. Traditionally, the House of Commons Foyer is an area for the exchange information between Members of Parliament and the media. Similarly, on special days like the Opening of Parliament, Throne Speeches, and Budget Day's arrangements are made between the House of Commons and the Press Gallery on media access.

Bloggers interested in interviewing Members of Parliament are encouraged to contact Members' offices directly to arrange for a meeting.

Yours Truly,
Peter Milliken, MP.

I don't really think he answered my question. He said he enteres into an agreement. Is it a verbal agreement? A contract? It is a tacit agreement? Since he holds the authority, he appears to have the right to do this.

It doesn't sound like they really want to deal with bloggers. So there you go.

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